Skip to main content

Full text of "Men Of Mathematics"

INVARIANT TWINS
at the University of London, where he studied under De
Morgan. In a paper written in 1840 with the somewhat mystical
title On the Derivation of Coexistence, Sylvester says 4I am in-
debted for this term [recmrents] to Professor De Morgan,
whose pupil I may boast to have been*.
In 1829, at the age of fifteen, Sylvester entered the Royal
Institution at Liverpool, where he stayed less than two years.
At the end of his first year he won the prize in mathematics.
By this time he was so far ahead of his fellow students in
mathematics that he was placed in a special class by himself.
\Thile at the Royal Institution he also won another prize. This
is of particular interest as it establishes the first contact of
Sylvester with the United States of America where some of the
happiest - also some of the most wretched - days of his life were
to be spent. The American brother, by profession an actuary,
had suggested to the Directors of the Lotteries Contractors of
the United States that they submit a difficult problem in
arrangements to young Sylvester. The budding mathemati-
cian's solution was complete and practically most satisfying to
the Directors, who gave Sylvester a prize of 500 dollars for his
efforts.
The years at Liverpool were far from happy. Always coura-
geous and open, Sylvester made no-bones about his Jewish
faith, but proudly proclaimed it in the face of more than petty
persecution at the hands of the sturdy young barbarians at the
Institution who humorously called themselves Christians. Bat
there is a limit to what one lone peacock can stand from a pack
of dull jays, and Sylvester finally fled to Dublin with only a few
shillings in his pocket. Luckily he was recognized in the street
by a distant relative who took hirn in, straightened Tyim out, and
paid his way back to Liverpool.
Here we note another curious coincidence: Dublin, or at least
one of its citizens, accorded the religious refugee from Liverpool
decent human treatment on his first visit; on his second, some
eleven years later. Trinity College, Dublin, granted him the
academic degrees (B.A. and M.A.) which his own alma mater,
Cambridge University, had refused him because he could not,
being a Jew, subscribe to that remarkable compost of nonsen-
4S3